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Perspective; The Jamaican Constitution Does Not Condemn or Deprive Dual Citizenship

Photo of Silbert Barrett

The legal context in which to recognize dual citizenship and ultimately the rights of Jamaican (Diaspora) overseas to vote is being subverted my ministerial orders stemming from a judicial decision in the Vaz case in which the learned judge made a constitutional error.  “Attorney General Ransford Braham said he disagreed with Chief Justice Zaila McCalla on several points in the dual-citizenship judgment cases. He said the Jamaican Constitution does not condemn or deprive dual citizenship”. With that premise, the Vaz case was strictly a political decision not grounded in constitutional law but on which subsequent Government seeks refuge in misleading the Jamaican people of their fundamental rights.

I agree with the opposition leader; it is time the gov’t recognize dual citizenship. According to Dr. Peter Phillips, “I believe it is also appropriate now that we have Jamaican immigration recognize the fact of dual nationality on the part of Jamaicans; most passports record where you were born. And when the Jamaican of dual nationality comes in they should be recognized as being Jamaican and be treated as an accepted part of the Jamaican community.”

The Jamaican Courts erred in applying a broad interpretation of section (40) of the Constitution regarding swearing of allegiance as Section 2 of the Constitution giving citizenship to Jamaicans overseas and children born to Jamaican parents,  in its current language is NOT subject to or conditional on Sections (39)  and (40). Simply put, there are no linkages or conditionality with the requirements for Jamaican citizenship and the residency requirements in section (39) nor there any with regards to the swearing of allegiance unless you are running for office.

Section 39 of the Constitution of Jamaica provides that a Commonwealth citizen aged 21 years or upwards who has been ordinarily resident in Jamaica for the immediately preceding twelve (12) months is qualified to be appointed a Senator or elected as a member of the House of Representatives.

The true intent and meaning of section (40) of the Jamaican Constitution relate to swearing allegiance to hostile powers. Almost 80% of our legislative agenda is driven by US legislations how is then Jamaicans taking out US citizenship are swearing allegiance to a foreign power? Section II of the Constitution giving citizenship was never conditional subjected to section (40) dealing with swearing allegiance.

Paying special attention to Section 40, subsection 2(a) of the Constitution, he read:  “No person shall be qualified to be appointed as a senator or elected as a member of the House of Representatives who is, (a) by virtue of his own act, under, any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, adherence to a foreign power or state.” Focusing on the word “under”, he said to be a citizen of another state is only one example of being under an acknowledgment, allegiance or obedience, because you can come into that position or status, by other methods.

Braham, who as a private lawyer, represented Daryl Vaz in the case against Dabdoub, said he did not consider a Jamaican who acquired United States citizenship disloyal and he did not believe that should disqualify him or her from serving in Parliament. “It is my considered view that the court in Jamaica was wrong when they found that (Vaz) traveled on his American passport, applied for and renew it, came under an acknowledgment of allegiance. He did not come under an acknowledgment of allegiance at that stage because he was already in that status, I have no personal difficulty with you having a foreign citizen (ship) and also being a Jamaican sitting in the Parliament.”

The Government of Jamaica had signed a secret strategic alliance With China. This is swearing allegiance to a foreign power for political and economic reasons the same way in which Jamaican abroad become citizens of so-called foreign powers yet the Gov’t refuses to engage the diaspora as Commonwealth of Jamaican Citizenship with strong cultural, economic and political ties to the island contributing more not only in money but in trade and cultural development and therefore have a stronger allegiance to their homeland that their adopted country.

The Ministerial decision to grant six months to Jamaicans living overseas on visits is in effect giving you a visa to visit your country of birth when in the face of the constitution is illegal and a political bluff. It would seem to me that there exists a lack of political maturity and governance when examined outside the context of legislative professionalism and the protection of fundamental rights manifested itself as outright hatred, social and class discrimination in a process of denationalization of Jamaicans overseas.

By : Silbert Barrett.

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